VEGETARIAN food traders are looking forward to a better Kew Ong Yeah (Nine Emperor Gods) Festival this year with travel restrictions relaxed.
In Taman Lip Sin, Penang, long queues were spotted during peak hours at some makeshift stalls operating by the roadside.
Traders said they were grateful to be allowed to operate under strict standard operating procedures (SOP).
Curry noodle seller Goh Teong Kheng, 62, who started his business in the same spot 20 years ago, said customers were constantly arriving to order takeaways at his stall.
“Compared to last year, people seem more relaxed this year and there are more people who are willing to come out to buy food.
“After being in business for so many years, I’ve got a lot of local regulars. I am only missing those from other states now.
“As dine-ins are not allowed here, we do not need to clean up tables, so, business is moving faster at present with many coming out to order takeaways,” he said.
Char koay kak seller Wong Yip Chuin, 65, who missed last year’s festival after being involved in an accident, said he was anticipating busier but shorter business hours this year.
“I expect many customers during lunch and dinner as there are many people working nearby.
“However, due to fewer people coming out for supper, I may close as early as 9pm, unlike previous years when we would open until midnight,” he said.
Steamed buns (pau) seller Liang Oo Tze, 40, said he started making his brand known since the movement control order last year by selling online.
“I have over 20 kinds of pau and I sold them across the country during the lockdown.
“Now, locals can buy them fresh and warm from me at the stall.
“I am grateful for the business and urge everyone to be cooperative in adhering to the SOP,” he said.
Theirs were among over 20 stalls along Lengkok Nipah in Taman Lip Sin, which were spotted selling vegetarian meals in conjunction with the festival, which started yesterday.
It was earlier reported that dine-in at temporary roadside stalls in Penang is still a no-no during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
Penang Island City Council (MBPP) public health and licensing committee alternate chairman Nicholas Theng had said those observing a vegetarian diet during the nine-day festival were not allowed to dine-in at roadside stalls, adding that only takeaway would be permitted.
Dine-in, he had said, would only be allowed at shops, eateries and food complexes for fully vaccinated devotees.
Meanwhile, on the Penang mainland, it was all quiet at the Tow Boo Kong Temple in Jalan Raja Uda, Butterworth, where thousands of devotees would normally converge for the festival.
Temple chairman Datuk Khor Wan Tat said although the temple was allowed to open to the public, the committee decided to limit entry to its members to conduct maintenance and perform prayers.
“Throughout the nine days of the festival, we will only perform prayers within the temple and the public will not be involved in the ceremonies in view of the current pandemic.
“We are not organising the annual float procession and the process of welcoming and sending off the Nine Emperor Gods will be done discreetly to prevent crowding.
“This will be the temple’s quietest Nine Emperor Gods Festival since it was established 51 years ago,” he said.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival will take place from Oct 6 to 14 this year.
It is held on the first day of the ninth lunar month, and is observed with much reverence by the Taoist community in the country.
Devotees normally observe a vegetarian diet during the nine-day festival that pays homage to the Goddess of the North Star, believed to control the Books of Life and Death.